No walk of shame after this sleepover.
by Sarah Kraus
“Our government is asleep, so we are too,” read a large piece of recycled cardboard propped up against a bed in the middle of the Killam Library’s atrium.
In bed, environmental activists tried to engage passersby in discussions about climate change.
It was all part of a week-long peaceful protest organized by third-year King’s student Emma Norton. She decided to hold a bed-in as a unique way to educate fellow students about the science behind climate change and voice her concerns over our national response to this threat.
“The federal government is not doing enough about climate change and we feel that the Canadian public needs to be more aware of it,” Norton said.
Her group of concerned environmentalists boasts 99 members on Facebook. Through a series of meetings and messages, participants were briefed on the latest environmental polls and given the breakdown of Canada’s current efforts to combat climate change. Armed with information, they carried their mattresses and pillows down to the Killam, ready to answer questions.
From Jan. 23 to 29 their eye-catching props were successful in helping the group collect almost 700 signatures on a petition they will send to politicians, urging them to take action on climate change.
Norton said that while the protest was largely well-received, a few people did present contradictory views about the seriousness of climate change.
Sceptics took comfort in the snowstorms that have struck Halifax in recent weeks. The snow, for them, is proof that global warming couldn’t possibly be happening. But Norton says that based on the level of scientific evidence supporting climate change (note “change”, not “warming”), those criticisms simply “don’t make sense.”
James Drummond, an atmospheric physicist working at Dalhousie, says that the confusion typically arises when people try to relate the immense complexity of global warming to individual snowstorms or droughts. “That’s far too simplistic a view of what is going on,” he said. “One day of snow doesn’t mean that there’s no warming going on, any more than one day of extreme heat means it is going on.”
“It’s a common misconception people have, mixing up weather and climate,” agrees Glen Lesins, another Dalhousie research professor who specializes on the effects of climate change in the Arctic. “Climate is average weather. You can’t determine climate just by looking at individual weather events. It is just completely wrong.”
Lesins also pointed out that in Canada, climate change will likely result in noticeable increases in the amount of snow we receive. He says that “when you have warmer temperatures, you have more water vapour in the air. As long as the temperature stays below the freezing point, then that precipitation comes out as snow.”
He supports grassroots initiatives like the bed-in as he believes a well-informed student population can help advance the issue of climate change at the policy level.
“The politicians don’t seem to be providing too much leadership on this. If the government perceives that the public is behind this, they’re more likely to pay attention to it.”